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GLA slams 'easily-swayed' Livingstone's planning record

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The Greater London Assembly has savaged Ken Livingstone's track record on planning decisions, accusing him of being too easily swayed by the capital's 'glitterati'.

In a heated exchange at mayor's question time, Labour member Valerie Shawcross rejected current planning procedures as 'sloppy' and 'fuzzy', and demanded that GLA members be allowed to take part in planning decisions - a process which currently takes place privately between Livingstone and GLA planning officers.

'Londoners want to know they have as much influence over you and access to planning information as the glitterati of London - the sorts of people [Ken Livingstone] bumps into all the time, ' said Shawcross. 'We are seeing publication of reports, and meetings involving potential developers, yet there is no system for ensuring assembly members can take part in meetings, which is our right under the GLA planning code.'

Livingstone reassured members that decisions were never made at social functions, as Shawcross implied.He also blocked the assembly's attempt to muscle-in on planning decision-making, stating such a step would 'fetter' his discretion.

'The planning code is impractical because it would have to be co-ordinated with my diary. It also goes well beyond the statutory remit of the assembly.Applicants expect discussions on planning to be confidential - something I could not guarantee under the code, ' he said. 'If the assembly wants agreement on the code, I expect to be consulted.

The standards committee has never informed me or relevant planning authorities about the code's adoption. The role of the assembly is to scrutinise what I do, not to be present when I am hearing confidential advice as part of the decision process. That is clearly the separation of powers.'

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